67-year-old US national traveled to Southeast Asian nation in 2005 to abuse minors, faces 120 years in jail
ANKARA (AA) – A former captain in the US Marine Corps was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in Cambodia, according to media reports.
The judgment was pronounced at a court in Los Angeles in the case of Michael J. Pepe, 67, who committed the offenses in Cambodia in 2005.
He was charged on four counts of traveling from the US to Cambodia in 2005 with an intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors, California-based Long Beach Post reported on Thursday.
Pepe will be sentenced in December and faces at least a 120-year jail term. He is currently detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
His victims, who have now grown adults, had accused Pepe of abusing them at his villa in Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh – the capital of Cambodia.
During his stay at the villa in 2005, Pepe would take minors from their families against a payment of $30. The victims were mostly from the slums of Svay Pak village, Phnom Penh-based Khmer Times reported on Friday.
It was on June 17, 2006, that Pepe was arrested by the Cambodian National Police on charges of rape and debauchery. The arrest came after one of his injured victims was spotted by an investigator, the daily said.
The Cambodian police had found “over 1,000 images Pepe had made of the young girls he abused.”
He was jailed at the Prey Sar Prison and subsequently handed over to the US authorities in February 2007.
A court in the US found him guilty in 2008 and sentenced him to 210 years in prison. However, he challenged the conviction that resulted in the reversal of the judgment in 2018. But he was sent on a retrial.
Later, the US prosecutors said: “Because he had traveled to and from Cambodia to the US in 2005, he had intended to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors and did so after returning, as shown by metadata embedded in his digital photos.”
Pepe was found guilty after several of his victims testified before the US court.